Monday, 6 June 2011

The BCN challenge

Here we go again, back on the BCN. We left Fradley on Thursday and waddled our way to our starting position for 24 hour challenge, this was the top of Perry Bar locks. Boating on Dove is pretty basic, like it's strip washes every night, so on arrival at Perry Bar to find the showers vandalised by the local bratts which peed me off just a little. After another hand bowl bath we settled down with a couple of beers and watched the sun go down over Birmingham and got some kip ready for the interesting day ahead. 

8:00am...Aaaaannnnd we're off, engine started by hand, because the bloody starter motor's knackered again, Down the 13 locks to Salford junction sharp right, through all the mud, coal slurry, mercury, zinc and anything else you can think of. 

It was then up the Aston flight of 11 and on to the Old 13 up to Birmingham. going up here there's load of little arms and wharfs, old bridges and this cathedral of brickwork, under the New street station.

At the top, right at the Old turn and on the New Main line. This part is quite well used, so it's nice and clear of debris and it's time to wind it on. Not long before we have to turn off to do the first loop, passed the BW yard with the towering reservoir at the back of it and on passed the now redundant works with the old pipework clinging to the crumbling brick arches of the now boarded up doorways, that once accepted raw materials from the canal.
Back to the Main line and straight across to the Soho Loop, this takes us round through more industrial history and passed the Winson Green Prison, oddly with its own arm?
We're then back on the main line and heading for Smethwick locks, only 3 here then we're on the Old Main line and on our way to Oldbury and a flight of 8 locks where most of the industry was chemicals and tar oil, so you can imagine whats in the canal here...We then bounced our way on to Titford to score an extra 10 point for answering a question. Then turn round and back down again. While on the Old Main line you come across patches of canal that are magnets for rubbish like this!  

Usually where there's a School or night time drinking hole where the little darlings gather to spray a 200 year old wall with there illiterate scribble, I could go on!!! 
Anyway, we then turn really sharp left and down the Spon Lane 3 and back on the New Main line, are you following this? At the bottom we exit the lock and come to a grinding halt! we're on the mud, and it's black with metallic bits in it, very pretty colours and it keeps the weed down. After a flushing session with a couple of lock fulls, rocking, rolling pulling and tugging, and not much movement, only from my bottom and not the boats. The only thing left to try, was to push the Bow to the bank then push it back as hard as I could to get Stern end to move out. After another bowel movement from me and some thrust from the prop we were finally moving again. But not for long, soon pick up a black bag along with various bits and bobs attached to it. Having no weed hatch this is the only way, on yer belly across the counter, pulling and riving with the shaft.
This picture should have been earlier, it's at Titford pool.

After turning right at Pudding Green junction and and then down Ryders green locks also known as the "gray-si-ait" according to the locals ( Thanks Blossom is that spelt right?) Due to the fact they were covered in grease from the industrial fallout. After a little episode with some lads from BW and tyre stuck in the paddle of lock 5, we were soon turning right again on the Tame Valley (here play theme to Jaws) you don't know what's under there!

It's not long before we found out. While tucking into my tea on the slide the engine suddenly stopped and so did the boat! Now, being stuck on the Tame Valley at 9:30 at night is not the best situation.
The problem soon showed itself, a metal sprung double mattress that was now wrapped round our blade and still attached to the bottom of the canal. After pulling and tugging for a good half an hour I finally found an end, now Andrea had to hand crack the engine while in reverse gear while I pulled and as luck would have it, it all unravelled. We couldn't drag it out, so it's still there, lurking in the depths.  

Cruising resumed, now in the dark, well at the least the local mobsters couldn't see us. so we did the Tame Valley missile free. The only thing we had to watch out for were the Gauging Islands and the narrows. Turning left next and up the Rushall Locks. This was a right slog. It wasn't until we shone the torch we found we were going through what looked like a marsh full of Water Lillys. By the time we got to the top of the flight it was gone midnight. We stuck the boat in a load of weed and went to bed for a while.
About 4am we were up and digging our way out of the weed. From here it was a steady plod all the way to Walsall town arm where we arrived just after 12 noon. We then sat and watched all the other happy people come in.
If you like adventure boating do the BCN. 
80 Locks
40 miles
24 hours
2 crew
70'6" boat 36" draught


Paddington said...

What a brilliant report, thanks for taking the trouble, a real pleasure to read.

fmc dove said...

Glad you liked it, hope it spurs you on and do the BCN

Paddington said...

Not bloody likely, I would spend all my time nailing the 'little darlings' to lock gates with a Spit gun and I don't have a charming lady assistant who can both rivet and hand start an engine!.